Cameron Dawson’s superb save from Steven Gillespie’s added time penalty may just prove to be the turning point in Alfreton Town’s torrid season, allowing the Reds to keep all three points through Luke Graham’s 20th minute header.
Alfreton were also able to clamber up to 22nd spot in the Vanarama Conference with only their second win in 14 League and Cup games away from the lmpact Arena, whilst recording their third successive win at Altrincham stretched over a decade.
With striker Karl Hawley serving the first of a three-match ban after being sent off in the midweek F.A.Cup debacle at Lincoln, the opportunity arose to partner Paul Clayton with Massiah McDonald up front whilst Nathan Hicks returned after a lengthy lay-off with a nasty shoulder injury.
The home side were as desperate for a win as the Reds and began in determined fashion with Nicky Clee firing a first minute angled drive over and Kyle Perry heading over from a James Lawrie cross two minutes later.
The early onslaught nullified Alfreton began to take the game to their hosts, with Anthony Howell progressing centrally before setting up Clayton only for his shot to be blocked by Tom Marshall.
Dan Bradley fired over from 30 yards on five minutes and Tom Shaw’s dip from slightly closer range was held by Altrincham keeper Stuart Coburn.
Dawson held Perry’s 12th minute effort from the edge of the area, then the Reds’ keeper did well to block from Damian Reeves from a Clee cross.
Clayton’s failed overhead kick from a Hicks cross nevertheless earned an 18th minute corner, and the momentum extended to the next move which saw Tom Shaw’s free-kick also divert behind off an Altrincham defender amidst futile penalty appeals when Tom Davies appeared to be shoved off the ball.
When Shaw’s flag-kick was delivered Graham’s deft near post header was almost cleared off the line by Scott Leather before nestling in the back of the net as Alfreton celebrated taking the lead.
It was Graham’s first goal for the club and six minutes later the central defender and skipper was only denied a second when Gianluca Havern hacked the ball off the line following a fluent move involving Clayton, Howell and Shaw.
Perry’s stretching header on 32 minutes was easily gathered by Dawson, then at the other end Coburn similarly dealt with McDonald’s shot after being played through by Clayton.
Dawson then bravely came out to smother the ball as former Reds’ favourite Jake Moult set up Shaun Densmore three minutes before the break.
A less lively second half suited Alfreton’s plans, although Dawson again needed to be alert when Perry unleashed a thunderbolt in the 53rd minute, then three moves in succession ended with Altrincham’s Reeves being caught frustratingly off-side.
A raking McDonald run in the 64th minute ended with his shot being blocked by Havern when better passing options were available, then Perry wasted a gilt-edged chance for the home team as Bradley Wood forced him so wide that his shot was inevitably off target.
Marshall went perilously close from all of 30 yards on 76 minutes, then Reeves scuffed a shot against the foot of the post five minutes later as Alfreton breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Even that moment was to be overshadowed by events in the fourth and last minute of stoppage time, when referee Adrian Holmes decided that Graham had impeded Reeves and dramatically pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Gillespie to potentially ruin Alfreton’s day, but Dawson had other ideas and sprang low to his right to tip the well-struck spot-kick away for a throw-in.
ALFRETON: Dawson; Wood, Graham, Davies, Rowe-Turner, Hicks (Keane), Bradley, Shaw, Howell, Clayton, McDonald (Sheridan 90). Subs not used: Ironside, Smith, Courtney.